Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week: Phone Scams

This is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, and we want you to be aware of tax scams! Today’s lesson: phone scams.


Do not fall victim to scammers who call and say they are with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)! There has been an increase in aggressive phone scams where people call and threaten you with police arrest or deportation if you don’t pay them.

Even if you do owe taxes…
·         The IRS will NEVER call and demand immediate payment over the phone.
·         The IRS will NEVER try to threaten or intimidate you, demand payment with a prepaid debit card, or ask for your credit card or debit card number over the phone.
·         The IRS will NEVER threaten to call the police or immigration agents if you don’t pay.

If you get a call like this, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 800-366-4484 or visiting www.tigta.gov. Also, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

For more information on tax scams, watch this video and read this IRS Tax Tip


Visit uscis.gov/avoidscams or uscis.gov/eviteestafas to learn how to recognize and avoid immigration scams and find authorized legal services. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Judge Grants Extension of Work Program for International Students

From Inside Higher Ed, 01/25/2016

The current rule governing a popular postgraduation work program for international students will remain in place until May 10.
The regulation governing the STEM OPT program, which grants students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields the right to spend an additional 17 months working in the U.S. on top of the 12 months available to all international students, was set to expire Feb. 12 after a federal judge ruled the regulation invalid on procedural grounds. In a decision issued Saturday, however, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request that the ruling be stayed for an additional 90 days, which the agency argued would give it time to implement a new proposed rule for the program and prevent disruption or hardship for participating students and employers.
“The significance of that hardship cannot be overstated,” Judge Huvelle wrote. “According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 2,300 dependents of STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorizations … If the stay is not extended, many of these people would be adversely affected, either by losing their existing work authorization, not being able to apply for the OPT extension or not knowing whether they will be able to benefit from the extension in the future. And of course, the U.S. tech sector will lose employees, and U.S. educational institutions could conceivably become less attractive to foreign students.”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Over 4.5 Million Are Waiting for Green Cards—Over 100,000 of them are Employment-Based

From GreenbergTraurig 01/12/2016

The Department of State (DOS) recently published its annual report of immigrant visa applicants (2015 Annual Immigrant Visa Report), which tallies up the number of total applicants—including spouses and children—who are waiting for their respective priority date to become current, allowing for them to obtain their green card. The annual report, which totals the number of applicants up to Nov. 1, 2015, does not take into account those applicants who have adjustment of status applications pending with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as of Nov. 1.
Overall, 2015 saw a three precent increase of total applicants compared against last year, increasing from a total of 4,422,660 for 2014 to 4,556,021 for 2015. This total includes both family-based green cards and employment-based green cards. Employment-based green card applicants only accounted for roughly 100,000 of the 4.5 million. When compared against 2014, the percentage of employment-based applicants waiting to apply for their green cards increased from 90,910 to 100,747—an increase of 10.8 percent.
While a 10.8 percent increase seems like a marginal increase, examining specific categories individually reveals that certain categories—namely Employment First, Second, and Fifth—have grown in popularity with employers and investors. Employment First encompasses green card applications for aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding researchers, and multi-national managers or executives. From 2014 to 2015, the Employment First category saw an increase of 27.1 percent on the waiting list, from 2,733 to 3,474. Employment Second is reserved for Aliens of Exceptional Ability, which is measured by positions that require a U.S. Master’s degree (or higher), or a Bachelor’s degree and five years of progressive experience.  In 2015, there was an increase of 36.5 percent for Employment Second, with 11,440 on the waiting list as opposed to 8,380 in 2014. Finally, Employment Fifth is reserved for investors and entrepreneurs who invest substantial capital into the U.S. economy, among other requirements. Employment Fifth saw the greatest increase from 2014 to 2015—175.2 percent. The specific wait list numbers, broken down by category, are below:


At first glance, the 140,000 of expected employment-based green card approvals this year seems like it would clear the existing backlog of green card applications of 100,747 left from 2015, but this is not the case because there is a seven percent per-country limit, which visa issuances to any single country, including China and India, cannot exceed. What this looks like for applicants from countries such as China and India is that the wait for green cards will only increase, absent legislative or executive action.
Reviewing the 2015 Annual Immigrant Visa Report by country reveals that India and China remain the world’s largest applicants across each Employment Category, a trend that will likely continue into 2016. For Employment First, China represents more than 25 percent of all applicants, with India coming in a distant second at 9.6 percent.
For Employment Second, India accounts for a two-thirds of all applicants at 66.8 percent; China, on the other hand, accounts for only 7.8 percent, falling just behind South Korea at 8.4 percent.

For Employment Fifth, China leads the applicant-pool with 89.6 percent of all applications.  The next two countries—Hong Kong S.A.R., and Vietnam, only account for 1.4 percent each.

For 2016, approximately 140,000 employment-based green cards are projected to be approved, meaning that the wait will continue for most of the 100,747 who are already waiting for their priority date to become current so that they can obtain their green cards. As the U.S. economy continues to rebound, it is safe to assume that only more applicants, especially from India and China, will continue to apply for employment-based green cards in the higher preference categories—Employment First, Second, and Fifth—where the wait is shorter as compared to Employment Third and Fourth, reserved for skilled workers, and special immigrants, respectively.